Software at heart of wharf row

Software is at the heart of the industrial dispute which has been causing conflict on the country's wharves.

Software is at the heart of the industrial dispute which has been causing conflict on the country's wharves.

A ship planning, loading and cargo-tracking application developed for Mainland Stevedoring was a significant reason for Carter Holt Harvey’s acceptance of Mainland Stevedoring to load its logging ships.

The use of Mainland at South Island ports has provoked watersiders union pickets which resulted in arrests last week at the Port of Nelson.

CHH’s manager of international logistics, Judith Hutchinson, confirms that Mainland's sophisticated IT systems were among the strengths which attracted CHH to use the company. "I've been in the shipping business for 22 years and I've not seen anything like this," she says.

Mainland Stevedoring has a positive "ethic towards technology", Hutchinson says, "and I've known that for a long time". It has done previous good work with computer technology, she says; "but this is the 21st century stitch".

The programs were developed for International Stevedoring, Mainland’s parent company, by Auckland company Software Associates – no relation to the US company of the same name. SA managing director Bruce Walton says the product provides for the bar-codes on logs to be read directly through hand-held radio terminals and compared with a database indicating what should be going on. This avoids the costly matter of the wrong cargo arriving at some far-flung destination.

The SA software also handles scheduling of the operation and vessel load planning.

“No one in New Zealand has anything like it. There is no other specialised stevedoring system as far as I know,” says Walton. “The others do it on paper or maybe with an Excel spreadsheet.”

Software Associates is bound by its contract to sell to no other company in New Zealand, but the developer has its eyes on “markets similar to New Zealand” in the wood trade, such as Canada. Interest has also been expressed from China and Korea, Walton says.

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